Town Council: Owner of abandoned house has until Jan. 3 to make repairs

Published 9:52 am Thursday, December 8, 2022

Smithfield’s Town Council is giving the owner of an abandoned house where a man’s body was found in October until its next meeting on Jan. 3 to board up the property.

On Nov. 2, Community Development and Planning Director Tammie Clary sent a letter via certified mail to the estate of Hattie G. Holloway-Jones of Virginia Beach, the property’s listed owner, stating that the home’s condition qualified as “blighted” under Smithfield’s blight abatement ordinance. The council officially declared the dilapidated residence blighted”on Dec. 6.

The ordinance defines “blighted” as uninhabited structures measuring more than 256 square feet that, by reason of dilapidation, obsolescence or the absence of electricity, water or sanitary facilities, are detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the community. According to town staff, the house is missing windows and its back door is “somewhat ajar.”

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The ordinance gives owners of blighted properties 30 days from their receipt of notice from the town to submit a “spot blight abatement plan.” The town received a handwritten response dated Dec. 1, stating that the estate plans to have work done to cover the broken windows and rebuild or replace the side door.

The letter is unsigned, gives no date for when repairs are to be completed and, according to town staff, was faxed from a Virginia Beach Walmart.

“It’s no plan,” said Town Attorney William Riddick III.

The council voted unanimously on Dec. 6 to reject the plan, but directed town staff to send a written reply to the estate giving a deadline of Jan. 3 for the completion of repairs.

Vice Mayor Mike Smith raised concerns that approving the owner’s plan could result in the house remaining in its dilapidated condition – though boarded up – indefinitely.

“I’ve seen this in other localities,” Smith said. “It sits there for years and years.”

Councilman Randy Pack, however, contended that the town is obligated to give the owner the benefit of the doubt, rather than assuming nothing will be fixed.

“This is still a person’s property; they have property rights,” Pack said.

But if the building isn’t boarded up by Jan. 3 in accordance with Isle of Wight County’s building code, the council plans to take action to remedy the situation at its own expense under the blight ordinance, and place a lien on the property to recover the cost.

Smithfield Police had responded to 202 West St. on Oct. 29 after a neighbor reported smelling a foul odor coming from the house. They found the body of 40-year-old Leondus Holloman face down in the front room.

Holloman’s family had reported him missing on Oct. 11. According to police, the house was “open to the environment” and contained animal droppings.